Miriam to pick Kiko over Enrile as Senate president if Villar backs out

July 23, 2010

Sophia Dedace and Kimberly Tan
July 23, 2010

Saying she prefers young blood, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Thursday she would rather pick the much younger Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan over veteran lawmaker Juan Ponce Enrile — should the Senate presidential race become a two-way contest between the two senators.

Santiago, who was guest senatorial candidate in Senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party ticket when he ran for president last May, said that if Villar drops his own bid for the Senate presidency, she “would probably vote for Pangilinan because he’s very young.”

“It’s time to begin to turn over our positions, our functions to young people. I think people like me should be ready for interment,” quipped Santiago in her usual acerbic style after she took her oath of office before Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Supreme Court.

Santiago likewise criticized Enrile for supposedly aligning himself with Pangilinan’s camp and later posturing as a possible contender himself.

Enrile: To run or not to run?

Enrile had earlier signed a resolution supporting Pangilinan, then wheeled around with a remark that the LP senator could not get enough votes to win.

Enrile, who became Senate president in November 2008 and held the post until the 14th Congress drew to a close last June, also confirmed that some LP senators had asked him to seek the post again.

He noted, however, that he will not actively contend for the Senate presidency and will only accept it if 13 senators vote for him. (See: Enrile confirms offers to head Senate anew)

At least 13 votes are needed to secure the Senate presidency, but no contender so far appears to be a clear winner.

Pangilinan reportedly has the votes of four fellow LP members, Senators Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III, and Ralph Recto. He also claims to have the support of four more senators: Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Francis Escudero, and detained Antonio Trillanes IV.

On the other hand, Villar counts five votes: those of Senators Miriam Santiago, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Joker Arroyo, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Pia Cayetano and Marcos ran under Villar’s Nacionalista Party in the May 2010 elections.

Those still undecided, who are known to be part of Senator Edgardo Angara’s bloc and seen as possible “swing votes,” are Senators Gregorio Honasan, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Sotto had earlier declared that he and Honasan will support Enrile should the veteran senator decide to seek the Senate presidency once more.

Kiko to pursue bid

Meanwhile, Pangilinan said he will continue his bid for the Senate presidency despite Enrile’s remark that he could not get enough votes to win.

“My decision to pursue the Senate Presidency is premised on our desire to push for genuine change for our nation,” he said in a statement issued Thursday, adding that he will try his best to gain more senators’ votes.

“We trust that our senators realize the urgent and pressing need to establish a working majority in the chamber to ensure that we are united in helping solve the country’s many problems,” he said.

For her part, Santiago said that should no one garner the 13 votes, the contenders should inhibit themselves and allow the most senior senator, in this case Joker Arroyo, to temporarily hold the post.

She likewise hinted that more “backroom negotiations” may occur this weekend before the Senate opens session and conducts voting for the presidency. She did not elaborate on the negotiations’ details.

Third term

Santiago, who just returned from a trip to Europe, said Thursday that she chose to be sworn in by Corona to show “a vote of confidence” on his appointment as SC chief justice.

This is Santiago’s third term as a senator. Her previous terms were from 1995-2001 and 2004-2010. She sought the presidency in 1992, but lost by a small margin to then Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos. —JV, GMANews.TV


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